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US Aircraft Carrier Group Begins "Routine" Patrols In Disputed South China Sea

US Aircraft Carrier Group Begins "Routine" Patrols In Disputed South China Sea

Tyler Durdens picture
Feb 19, 2017 9:03 AM

Threatening to destabilize the tentative improvement in Sino-US relations achieved in recent days following Trump's recent concession over the "One China" policy, was the US deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) to the disputed waters of the South China Sea on Saturday as part of maritime "routine operations", according to an announcement posted on the Vinson's Facebook page.

Sailing with the 97,000-ton Vinson is the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, the Navy said in a statement. The Vinson carries a flight group of more than 60 aircraft, including F/A-18 jet fighters.

The deployment comes just one day after China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea on Friday, CNN reported. War games involving its own aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbors with which it has long-running territorial disputes.

US aircraft carrier operations in the South China Sea are not unusual. Almost a year ago, the USS John C. Stennis led a similar cruise through the area. And the Vinson was in the South China Sea in 2015, just one of its 16 operations in the South China Sea in its 35-year history. The cruise of the Vinson in the South China Sea is the second of a high-profile US Navy vessel this month.

It also follows training operations in the South China Sea conducted by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado, which is temporarily based in Singapore, according to a Navy statement. "While underway, we are conducting training across multiple mission areas including weapons training, manned and unmanned flight operations, ship handling, and damage control drills," said Cmdr. Scott Larson, the Coronado's commanding officer. "Training at sea in these warfare areas maintains crew proficiency and ensures we are ready to operate successfully in a variety of missions."

Quoted by the Navy News Service, Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander of the Vinson strike group, had a similar message: "The training completed over the past few weeks has really brought the team together and improved our effectiveness and readiness as a strike group," Kilby said in a statement. "We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."

The operation, which is the latest test of Chinese response to US naval presence in the contested region comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China over territory and trade, and as the Trump administration looks set to take a more confrontational stance toward China than its predecessor. During his confirmation hearing, new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should be blocked from accessing the artificial islands it's built, setting the stage for a potential showdown.

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